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IWSG: A Bridge Between Clouds

July 3, 2013

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post! On the first Wednesday of every month hundreds of writers all over the world-wide web gather to share our insecurities and support and encourage each others’ writing endeavors. For more info, check out Alex J. Cavanaugh’s website, where you’ll find the linky for our little blog hop.

This month I discovered an interesting facet of being an insecure writer as I learned the real reason behind my reluctance to make scene cards to guide me through my novel drafts.

I’ve come to think of writing a story as crossing a very large and often treacherous body of water. Here I sit on the shore of my beginning, and, if I squint real hard, I can see the end on the other side. There are rocks and rapids and sharks in the water, but my scene cards are like a bridge to keep me above all that–because I really don’t want to swim. It’s too easy to get off course when you’re fighting just to stay above water!

My scene cards look sort of like this:Screen shot The Whole of the Moon

Looks nice and organized doesn’t it? But in reality, all the words on my virtual corkboard look a lot more like this:Image courtesy of Enrico Nunziat@ stock.xchngi

Trusting my Muse to fill in the missing pieces, I start across despite the rickety construction. I’m more of a discovery writer and so I’m not afraid of building scenes as I find out more about my story. Often, my bridge even starts heading to a different part of shore. I’ve heard that’s normal and okay for a first draft. But what to do with those obsolete scene cards? And what does this have to do with being insecure?

For an insecure writer like me, discarding scene cards might be the psychological equivalent of building the Image courtesy of Marco Michelini @ stock.xchngwrong bridge. When I show up with my new improved story blueprint, my Inner Editor turned engineer-math-whiz project manager glares at me from under her hard hat and barks, “Don’t you know you’re wasting precious time and resources with this change in plans? Who told you that you should attempt to write a story? Give up and let a real writer do the storytelling around here!”

I know. The resources in my case are pixels and paper, but my Inner Editor eagerly pounces on anything that could possibly represent failure.

Maybe the analogy between building stories and building bridges can only take me so far. Maybe stories aren’t really rivers and bays, but are more like clouds and planets. They shift in position; they can even change shape for no apparent reason. I can try to build bridges and plan roads between their beginnings and endings, but imaginary roads can easily change direction. All I need to do is note things down. I can even chart a new course again in revision. It’s all part of the journey.Image courtesy of Piotr Koczab @ stock.xchng

Is your Inner Editor a math whiz? Does your insecurity micromanage your writing schematics?

Jetty image courtesy of Enrico Nunziat, hard hat image courtesy of Marco Michelini, bridge into fog courtesy of Piotr Koczab, all @ stock.xchng
  1. July 3, 2013 3:27 am

    I love how organised your corkboard looks! I think whatever you are doing it is still moving the story forward, even if you have to move things around. Without that room to play, I’m sure the finished product wouldn’t actually feel as good as it does. Don’t let the insecurity bite, instead see it as a good thing, movement in thought, for the good of the story. And you can always keep a folder for unused cards that could end up popping up somewhere else entirely!

    • July 3, 2013 9:38 pm

      Hi Rebecca,
      I like the idea of keeping the unused scene cards in a special place. That way I might not feel even the slight effort of making them is wasted!

  2. July 3, 2013 3:34 am

    I only write a scene plan at the end, to see how the story hangs together, and to check chapter length (I had a 6k chapter than I had to break into 3 for example). Planning kills my ability to write. I do find it hard cutting chapters after the event, though. All that beautiful crafted prose! The quicker I write, and the more words I write, the easier it is to edit, because I have faith in my ability to write the cut scenes again.

    Beautiful photos, by the way. I would find that gorgeous secluded walkway into the lake inspiring!

    • July 3, 2013 9:45 pm

      I’ve written a lot of stories straight through without much planning as well, but now I’m finding the revisions feel nearly impossible to do. That’s why I’m implementing more scene cards and planning. But I do write quickly, and it makes sense not to let the words become too precious on that early draft.
      Stock.xchng (under Beautiful Views in the sidebar) has a ton of great pictures. This blog would be rather boring without the ace photographers who share their work on that site!

  3. July 3, 2013 6:30 am

    Wow, i wish i could be so organised….Scrivener by chance?

    Good luck honey! I think you’re doing marvellously so far….look at all those scenes you HAVE got 🙂


    • July 3, 2013 9:48 pm

      Oh yes, that’s Scrivener. 🙂 That program makes everything look so beautiful and tidy. Not like the mess of ideas in my head!
      Thanks for the encouragement! And you’re right, there are some pretty cool scenes in there somewhere. 🙂

      • July 3, 2013 10:06 pm

        I did love seeing your Scrivener. I tried the trial and got so sold I’m hoping desperately to rack up the funds to buy it.

        • July 4, 2013 10:35 am

          Fortunately, Scrivener is not all that expensive, especially considering what it can do. Good luck!

      • July 5, 2013 2:46 am

        I have it downloaded but I haven’t used it yet lol

        I try to focus on the good bits I’ve written, but the bad usually completely outweighs it lol

        Good luck honey xx

  4. July 3, 2013 7:34 am

    My writing schematics are… Hm. It’s interesting but I’ve never had just one path to a story.

    My inner editor is the reader in my head reading along and getting disgusted by the lack of the stories she wants to read and then reading aloud inside me when I read my own work and saying, “No, not that word. This one.” “You lost me, honey, at the last character turn.” “Not buying that.” “It doesn’t flow.”

    Did I mention my inner editor loves poetry? As in, adores poetic literary flow, word images, implication, and icebergs. My inner editor is my inner reader and she’s why I say, “Writing is reading. It’s just a story that isn’t written yet.”

    Now, if you want to talk about the grammar whore, she’s awesome and I am actually nitpicky enough about language (can anybody say lingophilic dictionary reader, boys and girls?) to have gotten that nickname, but I don’t let her be my inner editor. She’s not about the story.

    • July 3, 2013 9:56 pm

      I like how your Inner Editor knows with absolute certainty what it is she wants to say! I think, actually, we might all have that capacity, but channeling it past our insecurity is the trick. I’d say it sounds like you’ve got that under control! 🙂
      I had to look up ‘lingophile’ and I’m afraid my Inner Editor might be one of those as well … at least that’s what some of my crit partners think. 😉

      • July 3, 2013 10:01 pm

        I have a sneaking suspicion your Inner Editor is indeed just like my inner “Grammar Whore” aka the Proofer. I don’t let her out until the story’s in the bag and the blood’s been cleaned off the carpet. Writing is messy. It takes the Reader to make sense of it.

      • July 3, 2013 10:04 pm

        And you know, come to think of it, my insecurity takes a different form. It’s put a screech on the brakes and hyperventilate, gush my worries in a rambly, rant-like paragraph and throw the poor innocent half-baked sketch of a start of a story on my beta, whom I could throw myself down before to kiss her feet, and then get back just the right comments to calm my breathing back to normal then sit on the story with my feet up on it on the desk in my mind until it starts burning said feet again. Then I get back to writing.

        I’m fairly certain that’s how this works for me because I just got back said comments from said beta on the story start I snippeted recently with the coffee shop and hints of romantic tension. It’s going to be a literary doozy and it’s ambitious enough to have me trembling in my boots. So it’s up and waiting now for that burn.

        • July 4, 2013 10:40 am

          Oh, I know that feeling! Every time I open a critique I feel as if I can’t breath right until I’m sure they don’t hate my story. I had no idea sharing my words could affect me this physically. It feels an awful a lot like stage fright actually!
          I remember that snippet too. A ton of potential in that one. 🙂 I hope you keep working on it!

  5. July 3, 2013 8:25 am

    I’ve never done cards, and I envy those who do. I’m a total pantser. I know my overall story arc, sit my butt in the chair and write, then I go back and fill in a plotting chart with each scene to make sure I’m hitting my minor and major plot points at the right spot 🙂

    • July 3, 2013 10:00 pm

      Ah, I see you go over the scenes and plot afterwards in revision then? I might be a bit of both, in that I like to chase the story where it likes to go, but need to keep track of it with scene cards. I think my story arc tends to wander as I write.

  6. July 3, 2013 10:07 am

    I’ve done a remarkable job in the last year of beating my inner editor into submission. He now hides in a corner and cries when I open up my word processor, which gives me a strange sense of pleasure. I credit my Write Or Die program with my success. After around two dozen ten-minute Kamikaze writing sessions where the program starts deleting words when I get behind on my goal, it becomes really easy to ignore that inner editor.

    • July 3, 2013 10:04 pm

      I love Write or Die! I used to sit down and crank out a thousand words at a time just to really show that nasty editor who’s boss around here. Whenever things start to slow down, I threaten to whip out that website, and the words come back again. Amazing stuff, and great work on getting that mean little voice in your head to shut down. 🙂

  7. July 3, 2013 11:07 am

    I love your analogy. I’ve written out scene cards before and I usually make it to about the halfway point before everything just gets thrown out. I’m a plantser (a plotting pantser), so I start with outlines, but I never stick to them. Either way is hard because you can’t schedule creativity.

    • July 4, 2013 10:01 am

      I think I’m a little of both as well. I do have an idea of what I want to say and how it might play out, but in the end I usually end up somewhere different. Trying to reconcile with that has been a bit difficult, but seeing that it happens to other writers (really good writers I should add! 🙂 ) has really helped me to accept my own process!

  8. July 3, 2013 11:51 am

    I love this analogy. I wrote scene cards this time, and they helped keep me on track. But now that the story has gone through some tweaking, I need to go back and make sure everything matches.

    I do question the amount of prep work I hear of authors undertaking, and I shied away from it for a long time because I was trying to avoid extra and unnecessary work, but I’m finding that it helps enough to be worth the few scene cards I might throw away or change.

    Great post! 🙂
    IWSG #118 until Alex culls the list again.

    • July 4, 2013 10:07 am

      Hi Melissa,
      With every month we slowly inch higher up on Alex’s list don’t we? 😉

      Anyway, I read about writers doing tons of prep work before jumping into the story and that often worries me-especially because I might end up doing a lot of research into something that ends up being cut anyway.
      Once the story is finished, tightening everything up makes so much more sense to me because I can see the story in its entirety!
      I think it’s a question of the clarity with which a writer can visualize the story. I’m still in that foggy stage …

  9. July 3, 2013 2:28 pm

    Girl, I am in awe of your pretty scene cards. As a total panster, if I sit down to try to block out scenes, my mind just goes blank. I can only see the story while I am writing. I love the bridge analogy, but hey, we have that I-5 bridge that crashed into the Skagit river and they build a very quick temporary bridge to use while they build the real bridge. So, maybe those cards you don’t use are sorta like that temporary bridge…

    • July 4, 2013 10:10 am

      I like that! A lot. 🙂
      The temporary bridge can show me the scenery, but the real one is for the rest of the people (my readers if I’m lucky 😉 ) to come across when the story is finished!
      I give all the credit for my pretty cards to Scrivener. I’ve said many times, I don’t know how I’d write stories without it!

  10. July 3, 2013 5:02 pm

    My inner editor likes chocolate and must sit at a desk. She also like write on paper. I tell her to save trees but she does not. Boo.

    • July 3, 2013 5:03 pm

      I’m getting tired: My inner editor likes chocolate and must sit at a desk. She also like to write on paper. I tell her to save trees but she does not. Boo.

      • July 4, 2013 10:18 am

        Hi Molly Mom,
        Welcome to A Scenic Route!
        Chocolate has to be one of the more useful writing stimulants out there. 🙂 Right up there with coffee!
        And hey, on the paper, if you look for the symbol: you’ll know your paper is coming from sustainable sources. Now the trees are safe! (I know, I wrestled with this myself.)

  11. July 3, 2013 6:30 pm

    I think I end up planning out the Golden Gate Bridge before I begin!
    I must be very left-brained. Only on my last manuscript did I really deviate from the outline. And ended up creating the coolest secondary character. I bet that means something…

    • July 4, 2013 10:20 am

      You have no idea how much I envy your story planning prowess! I would love to embark on a story and have all my scenes and plot points ready to go. 🙂
      And yet, like you say, sometimes the funnest moments during the writing are the unexpected ones.

  12. July 3, 2013 8:15 pm

    My insecurity micromanages ME because I’m still figuring out Scrivener. Yipes! I envy your corkboard skills:)

    • July 4, 2013 10:24 am

      I’ve found Scrivener to be very forgiving of seat-of-my-pants writers like me. I can write and write, and then slice it all up later to sort things into scenes and notes. The corkboard is lovely, isn’t it? But just wait. I’m going to color code the cards by point of view and plot/subplot, and then it will be even prettier!

  13. July 3, 2013 10:34 pm

    I agree with the suggestion of simply tucking “discarded” scene cards away into another place for safekeeping. One day you might have a project they’d be perfect for.

    I haven’t tried the scene card technique myself, but I’ve been thinking about using it for an idea for a novella I have kicking around. With my short story first drafts, most of the time I had a sequence of events in my head that I stuck to unless another idea came along. I’m not entire sure how I got through the first draft of my novel–I think it was a combination of having some ideas beforehand and keeping track of them in my head, combined with a healthy dose of pantsing. I did have a pretty good idea of where I ultimately wanted to end up, so that probably helped a lot–when in doubt, I’d aim for the end.

    • July 4, 2013 10:34 am

      One of the take-aways from finishing my revision is that I’m finding it much easier to conceive a story in scenes and overall plot arcs. 🙂 As I’m writing there are always questions in the back of my mind like: “How can I deepen this conflict? How are my characters reacting to this plot development? Is this a plausible way for them to react? And why?”
      I still don’t stick with preplanned scenes all the way through, but I’m definitely organizing the first draft a lot more tightly as I go forward. We’ll see how that turns out!

      I know what you mean though. I don’t know how I got through my first draft of my first novel! But I did, and that’s what counts. 🙂 No matter how slushy it was …

      • July 4, 2013 1:47 pm

        I suppose this is one of the ways that HTRYN might eventually condense from a lengthy and involved learning process to one that becomes quicker and more practical. Maybe revising a project or two trains our minds in ways that allow us to produce better first drafts that need less work 🙂

  14. July 4, 2013 11:03 am

    Hey Kirsten! I like the idea of your scene cards. Reminds me of the book dummy I recently made for my picture book. What a visual tool it was. 🙂

    • July 4, 2013 12:57 pm

      As a kinesthetic learner, I’m a huge fan of creating something visual to represent what I’m trying to understand. So a book dummy sounds like it’s right up my alley!

  15. July 4, 2013 8:48 pm

    Don’t you love Scrivener. I get excited just seeing the flash cards. Of course I’d be more excited if all of mine were filled out.
    I’m traditionally more of a math head, so planning out all the contingencies comes naturally. The problem comes when the characters don’t want to go that way and things move in directions I had no back up plan for.
    I’ve found scene cards are the best way for me to move forward, even if they have to be adjusted along the way.

    • July 5, 2013 6:49 am

      Hi Subtlekate 🙂
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      It’s funny, in real life, I’m all about the contingencies, but when it comes to storytelling I’m just fine writing without a net. That’s makes for very messy drafts!
      I like your idea of making adjustments on the fly, because, like you, my characters often end up doing the unexpected!

  16. T.F.Walsh permalink
    July 5, 2013 4:24 am

    Very organised… I love my Scrivener… I put so many details in each folder for my books. Not sure I could ever more away from Scrivener;)

    • July 5, 2013 6:51 am

      Hey Tania,
      Yeah, I have a ton of folders for all the flotsam that I pick up along the way: character pages, research tidbits, links to interesting sites, books to read, even photos of people and places that might inspire a scene! It’s great to have it all in one place. 🙂

  17. July 5, 2013 5:55 am

    I think I write best when I have a blueprint of a ricketty bridge, to use your metaphor. Too much planning ruins the fun, a rough outline still leaves rooom for brief deviations and local colour along the hero’s journey, for me at least.

    • July 5, 2013 6:56 am

      Hi David!
      I’m coming to the same conclusion. My Inner Editor hates that my bridge isn’t pretty and stable, but she’s getting used to the idea–especially because I’ve promised to fix things up in revision.
      I’m glad you stopped by A Scenic Route! Happy writing. 🙂

  18. July 5, 2013 12:07 pm

    Perfect analogy! Love the picture with the bridge and the fog… that couldn’t be more spot on…

    • July 8, 2013 6:40 pm

      Hi Morgan 🙂
      Sometimes a cool picture inspires the post. I think this was one of those times!

  19. July 15, 2013 3:41 pm

    I wish I was as organized with my writing as you are!

    • July 16, 2013 6:20 pm

      Hi Gina,
      Me? Organized? I sure don’t feel organized!! But it helps to have a program just for novel writing. Then at least I can put all the mess in one place. 🙂


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